Tendonitis: Risk Factors, Prevention and Treatment

Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons and bursae of the joints. Muscles and tendons power the joints, allowing us to move. The bursae are sac-like fluid filled structures that allow the tissue structures, to glide smoothly against each other. Healthy tendon function is dependent on stability and flexibility. Tendons and bursae are located near joints therefore inflammation in these tissues will often be perceived as joint pain and mistaken for arthritis. The symptoms are similar: pain and stiffness made worse by movement. Pain may be worse at night. Although tendonitis is usually a temporary condition, it has the potential to become a chronic problem. Tendonitis affects the old and young alike. Approximately 6% of us are affected by it at any given time.

Shoulder Tendonitis

Caused by either repetitive arm & shoulder motions, or just age, the tendons, muscles, and surrounding structures become irritated and wear down. If the rotator cuff and bursa are irritated, inflamed and swollen, they may become squeezed between the head of the humerus and the acromion.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis involves the large tendon at the back of the ankle. The Achilles Tendon connects the large calf muscles (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) to the heal bone (calcaneus). It has a poor blood supply resulting in a slower healing time. This tendon can become inflamed through overuse, and also by many other contributing factors. An estimated 11% of all running injuries are due to Achilles tendonitis.

Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis or “jumper’s knee” is a condition that results from overuse of the knee. The Patellar tendon is a structure that attaches the quadriceps muscle to the tibia (shin bone). The patella (knee cap) is a sesamoid (floating bone) that is a part of the patellar tendon. It is believed that since the patellar tendon or patellar ligament connects the patella to the tibia, it should be classified as a ligament. Ligaments connect bone to bone while tendons connect muscles to bone.

Warning Signs

The following symptoms may indicate that you have one of the above types of tendonitis:

  • Pain, stiffness and swelling of the affected area
  • Pain that is increases in the at night
  • Restricted movement in the area surrounding the injury
  • Pain that is usually worse after movement of the affected area

Tendonitis Treatments

If you have been diagnosed with any type of tendonitis, your treatment will depend on the specific cause and nature of the condition. Common treatments start with rest and immobilization of the affected area. Medication to control pain is sometimes necessary.

What are Your Risk Factors?

The most widely recognized causes of tendonitis and bursitis are repetitive or excessive movement of a joint/joints, and excessive exercise to which the body is unaccustomed. As the body ages, the blood flow to the tendons may be decreased. This diminishes the ability to heal and may initiate tendonitis. Here are the most common tendonitis and bursitis risk factors:

  • Habitual wearing of poorly fitted shoes that rub against foot tendons.
  • Presence of bone spurs in the feet or elsewhere that irritate tendons.
  • Being overweight. Obesity puts abnormal pressure on the legs and feet.
  • Repeated overuse of the wrist, which can inflame the tendons.
  • Overuse of the tendons, often occurring in the shoulders of swimmers or in the serving arm of a tennis player.
  • Overuse of the arm muscles, which can cause inflammation of tendons in the elbow (“tennis elbow”).
  • Being unfit. Having a poor level of fitness results in weakened tendons.
  • Having poor posture. Poor posture and awkward use of limbs put excessive stress on the tendons.
  • Genetic predisposition. The tendency to develop defective connective tissue (e.g. collagen abnormalities) or decreased circulation runs in families. These conditions can lead to tendonitis. Pain and inflammation may not show up until a person is middle-aged or older or experiences some form of trauma to the genetically weakened areas.
  • Having an infection. Sometimes an infection within the bursa or tendon sheath will give rise to inflammation.
  • Having certain systemic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, systemic sclerosis, gout, Reiter’s syndrome, diabetes, hypercholesteremia, osteoarthritis and thyroid disease may increase the tendency to develop tendonitis.

Wellness Tips

The following tips will help you manage the pain of bursitis and tendonitis:

Use hot and cold therapy.
Application of heat or cold can provide temporary relief of pain. Heat helps to reduce pain and stiffness increasing circulation to the area and relaxing aching muscles. (Some health professionals believe that heat may make the condition more painful, so caution should be exercised when applying heat. Cold helps to numb the area by constricting the blood vessels and blocking nerve impulses. Always keep a towel or other barrier between the source of heat or cold and your skin.

Keep moving.
Exercise helps keep joint structures, including the tendons, strong and healthy. Gradually build up the intensity and frequency of activity and always warm up and cool down before and after exercise.

Choose shoes that fit properly and that fully support your feet.

Change position frequently.
This is particularly important if you sit at a desk for many hours. Changing your position and posture frequently will help minimize stress on specific tendons. Also, be sure to take frequent breaks.

Position joints wisely to avoid excessive stress on joints.
Use your back, arms and legs to avoid putting extra stress on joints. For example, carry a heavy load close to your body. Using grab bars and shower seats in the bathroom can help you to conserve energy and avoid falls. Use your larger, stronger joints to bear the weight of loads. (For example, use a shoulder bag instead of a handheld one.) Avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time.

Revise your diet.
Add more raw seeds such as pumpkin and flax seeds and fatty fish like salmon or sardines to your food intake; these foods contain health promoting omega 3 fatty acids, to reduce tendon inflammation. Increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables; eat more legumes (beans, peas); try to eliminate foods containing hydrogenated oils, cut down on foods rich in animal fats, particularly fatty meats (beef, pork) and high-fat dairy products.

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Author: Life Enthusiast Staff